Catholics vs. Episcopalians, is there truly a distinction? When I recollect onmy religious tradition, Catholicism, I ponder on just how different it is inpractice and theology from that of protestant traditions. When examining I cameto compare how deeply Catholics and Episcopalians are divided on questions ofpolitical and religious leadership? Through research I have concluded thatCatholics and Episcopalians are vastly separated in political and religiousleadership and this factor is the foremost distinction between the twotraditions.
Since the establishment of the Episcopalian Church we can see thelink between the Church of England and further with the Roman Catholic Church asstated, It was part of the Anglican Communion, formally organized inPhiladelphia in 1789 as the successor to the Church of England in the AmericanColonies. In points of doctrine, worship, and ministerial order, the churchdescended from and has remained associated with the Church of England. Thehistory of the church began with the first permanent English settlement atJamestown, Va. , in 1607. (Encyclopedia Britannica Online) The establishmentof the Episcopalian Church was in fact for political and religious leadershipfreedom from its ties with The Church of England and in conjunction freedom fromthe Catholic Church. The differences in church organization are prevalent andare the main distinction between the two traditions.
The Episcopalianorganization is described as; In the organization of the church, eachself-supporting congregation (parish) elects its lay governing board (vestry)for temporal affairs and its rector as spiritual leader. Congregations that arenot self-supporting (missions) are directed by the bishop of the area. In agiven area the parishes and missions make up a diocese, headed by a bishop. Allclergy and laity representing all congregations meet annually in convention toconduct the business of the diocese. The convention elects the bishop to serveuntil death or retirement. The dioceses and mission districts belong to theGeneral Convention, which meets triennially.
All bishops are members of theHouse of Bishops, and the House of Delegates is made up of equal numbers ofclergy and laity. The Executive Council, the administrative agency of theGeneral Convention, is headed by the Presiding Bishop (elected by the House ofBishops), who also presides over the House of Bishops. (Encyclopedia BritannicaOnline) In contrast the Catholic Churchs political and religious leadershipis organized in a manner that follow a distinct order. This order can be groupedby papal authority, the Roman Curia and the college of Cardinals, the college ofbishops, ecumenical councils and the priesthood. Catholics also hold the Vaticanas the capital for Catholicism and place it as a global leadership source. Thestudy of these two traditions consisted of two visits to St.
Johns EpiscopalChurch and two visits to St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church. The comparison ofthese traditions stimulated interest in me due to two factors. First, I amCatholic and have been raised in the Catholic tradition, which stimulates muchinterest in the Episcopalian tradition. This will allow me to play both roles asan insider when I attend Catholic Church and as an outsider in the EpiscopalChurch. Secondly, until this religion course I was unaware of the details in theEpiscopal Church and wanted to further examine the tradition.
In preparation tovisit St. Johns Episcopal Church I felt a discomfort due to unknown rituals,physical appearance of the church and its location in the downtown area. Ithought a good method of visiting the church would be to invite an Episcopalianfriend of mine. He agreed to visit the church with me and addressed the concernsI had in visiting the church. As I soon learned the issues I was concernedabout, should not have been a concern at all.
I found that the rituals werealmost identical to that of the Roman Catholic faith. Rituals such as spokenprayers, hymns that were sung and receiving communion were done in an almostduplicate manner. I was fortunate enough to visit St. Johns Episcopal Churchon two special occasions. On my initial visit they had baptism of newborninfants. This was performed in the same manner as the Catholic method with theexception that Catholics do not perform baptisms during the regular Sunday mass.
On my second visit it was Saints Sunday in both traditions. This experiencealmost leads me to conclude that there was no difference in practicing rituals. Both traditions reflected on given Saints during the mass and explained how oneshould try to follow the examples of these Saints. The appearance of bothchurches truly enhanced my experience as a visitor. Visiting these localchurches reminded me of the pulchritude I witnessed visiting Catholic churchesin Spain this past summer.
Both churches are laid out similar in that they arein a T shape. The pulpit was located in the middle where everyone isallowed to view the priest at the pulpit, although if you are seating along thesides, you would have a side view of the mass. The method in which the pews,windows and ceiling were constructed were also arranged similarly. The twonoticeable differences were the way the choirs were seated and the absence of astatue of Jesus on the cross. The choir in the Episcopal Church was seated toface each other and was significantly larger in quantity than that of theCatholic Church. After researching why the Episcopalian Church does not have astatue of Jesus on the cross, I was unable to determine the reason, however Ithought that it is a notable difference.
Being raised in a middle class family,I was accustom to attending church in a casual style wearing jeans and a niceshirt. My expectation of the attire at this particular Episcopal Church followedwas correct, formal dress. Everyone in the church was in formal wear, males woresuits, and females wore long dresses. This dress phenomenon I do not believe islinked to a particular faith, more to the social class that makes up the churchmembers. One aspects that Catholics seem to appraise more than Episcopalians isthe Virgin Mary.
It is not that Episcopalians do not recognize the Virgin Mary,however they generally do not hold the caliber of importance as Catholics. In myvisits to the Catholic Church, I found statues of the Virgin Mary and peoplepraying over her statue. Other ritual practices which I noted to be differentwas how Catholics have confession and pray the rosary. Though Episcopalians donot practice confession, it should also be noted that the Catholic Church aschanged the magnitude of confession in the late twenty century. I have foundthat Catholics are adopting the protestant way of belief of forgiveness whichhas the general idea that God gave us Jesus to have a one-on-one relationshipwith God through Jesus therefore eliminating the need to confess to a priest. This argument is quite controversial and will continue to be a topic ofdiscussion for decades.
When discussing the use of the rosary to a Episcopalianfriend of mine he stated that the tradition does not practice the use of arosary. This coincides with not having confession, since praying the rosary isoften something done after confession. In concluding I would have to say myexperience in surveying these different traditions was extremely educational. Itis interesting how much one can learn by exposing themselves to other traditionsand learning unfamiliar aspects of ones tradition.
The research conducted ledme to affirm my statement that there is a strong divison on political andreligious leadership between these two traditions. However, I must say whatintrigued me the most was how similar a protestant tradition is to the Catholictradition and the only separation being the leadership and politics. Bibliography”Protestant Episcopal Church” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Accessed 15 November 1999Religion